By KBB.com Editors
Last year, Ford gave its popular Escape compact SUV a cosmetic makeover, with a new interior and exterior design, and improved sound insulation and seat comfort. For 2009, Ford completes the two-year renewal process with a major overhaul of the Escape's engine, transmission, suspension and brakes – changes that also apply to the Escape Hybrid (reviewed separately). With over a million units sold, the Escape has proven itself to be an appealing vehicle, yet with the current economic downturn and increasingly tough competition, maintaining its strong sales presence is now the new Escape's number one job.You'll Like This Car If...
If you're looking for traditional SUV features, such as high ground clearance and a high seating position, but you want it in a smaller, more fuel-efficient package, the 2009 Ford Escape makes a good choice.You May Not Like This Car If...
If you're looking for sleek aerodynamic styling, the Escape's boxy exterior stands in stark contrast to the more elegant design of the Honda CR-V and Saturn VUE. Unlike the Toyota RAV4, the Escape does not offer a third-row seat option.What's New for 2009
An all-new 2.5-liter and improved 3.0-liter engines result in more power and improved fuel economy. A new six-speed automatic transmission is now standard on all but the base XLS.Driving It Driving Impressions
Last year's redesign saw additional weight but no improvement in power for the 2008 Escape. For 2009, an all new 2.5-liter four-cylinder base engine remedies this situation, offering a big boost in both horsepower and torque. The available six-speed automatic operates effortlessly and helps the Escape see improvements in both performance and fuel economy. Handling is best described as respectable, but not as tight or confident as experienced in more car-like utility vehicles, such as the Honda CR-V or Nissan Rouge. The electric-assist power steering system delivers good steering response and eliminates the need for a belt-driven pump, which draws power from the engine.Favorite Features
Easy to use and loaded with helpful features, the Escape's on-board navigation unit can hunt down hotels, coffee kiosks and out-of-the-way gas stations in seconds.
Center Console Storage Space
The wide center console features a storage compartment large enough to hide a laptop computer, a rubber-lined storage tray to keep electronic devices from sliding around and an optional 110-volt power outlet.
The 2009 Ford Escape's interior received a much needed overhaul last year, adding better quality plastics, "Ice Blue" dash lighting and a new "top-of-dash" information center. Ford moved the Escape's parking brake to the driver's-side footwell, permitting the creation of a wide center console storage space large enough to accept a laptop computer. A thicker headliner and carpeting, as well as laminated side glass, help quiet the interior, and the Escape's rear seat remains one of the roomiest in this class. Ford's standard Safety Canopy includes side-curtain airbags that deploy in the event of a side impact or impending rollover situation.Exterior
The 2009 Escape shares a strong family resemblance with Ford's other truck and SUV models, giving it a rugged appearance worthy of a quasi-off-road warrior. The Escape's small dimensions make it easy to park and maneuver, while the large side-glass panels permit a nearly unobstructed view for both driver and passengers. Unlike more stylized crossovers, the Escape's squared-off roof line creates a tall hatch opening that permits maximum cargo cramming. Bling junkies can opt for the Limited trim, which adds reflective chrome trim to the grille, rear hatch and roof rails.Notable Standard Equipment
The most basic Escape is powered through its front wheels by an all-new 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and five-speed manual transmission. Creature comforts include rear defroster, power mirrors, power windows, power door locks, cruise control, air conditioning, remote keyless entry, 60/40 split-folding rear seats and a four-speaker CD player with auxiliary audio input jack. Standard safety features include traction control, stability control, front seat side-mounted airbags, side-curtain airbags and anti-lock brakes (ABS).Notable Optional Equipment
Options vary by trim and include a 3.0-liter V6 engine, four-wheel drive, a six-speed automatic transmission, the SYNC in-car communications and entertainment system (optional on XLT, standard on Limited), GPS navigation with 10GB hard drive storage, 17-inch chrome wheels, six-way power driver's seat, leather seats, ambient lighting, heated front seats, power moonroof, fog lamps, keyless entry pad and the Reverse Sensing System. Also available are remote start and a rear seat entertainment system.Under the Hood
An all-new 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine employs variable valve timing to see an eleven percent increase in power and one mile per gallon improvement in fuel economy over last year's 2.3-liter engine.
If you desire a manual transmission, this is your only engine choice. The larger 3.0-liter V6 has also been improved, with a higher compression ratio that adds an additional 40 horsepower. The 3.0-liter provides better acceleration and the ability to tow up to 3,500 pounds, but its city fuel economy ratings only reach the high teens.
2.5-liter in-line 4
171 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
171 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/28 (FWD, manual), 20/28 (FWD, automatic), 19/25 (4WD, automatic)
240 horsepower @ 6550 rpm
223 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4300 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/26 (FWD), 17/24 (4WD)
The 2009 Ford Escape XLS' Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starts around $21,000 for the front-drive, manual-transmission model and jumps up to around $24,000 when equipped with an automatic transmission and four-wheel drive. The XLT models range from $24,000 to about $33,000 with all the options, while a fully-loaded Limited tops out around $36,000. To find out what other people are paying for the Escape in your area, be sure to check the Fair Purchase Price. Across the board, the Escape remains competitive with others in this class, including the Honda CR-V, Suzuki Grand Vitara and Jeep Liberty. Resale values, however, fall in the middle range, well below the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4, but better than the Jeep Liberty and Suzuki Grand Vitara.